Polymers are large high molecular weight natural or synthetic organic molecules formed by the linkage of many smaller molecules known as monomers in a regular pattern usually consisting of long chains in either linear form or with branching points. They are created in a process known as polymerization. The number of repeating units in the polymer molecule is its degree of polymerization.
Synthetic polymers are formed by the addition or condensation polymerization of two or more monomers. If two or more different monomers are involved, i.e., molecules of a different chemical makeup, a copolymer is obtained. If the monomers are all identical, a homopolymer is produced. Some synthetic polymers are elastomers, while others are plastics. Synthetic polymers are often produced from monomers made from alcohols and petrochemicals. Examples of synthetic polymers include plastics like polyethylene (ethylene monomer), polystyrene (styrene monomer) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) made from vinyl monomer; Nylon and polypropylene which are use in making carpet fiber, Teflon (fluorinated ethylene monomer) and polyelectrolytes used in chemical coagulation and as binders in latex paint and caulk.
Natural polymers include copolymers like proteins (polymers of as many as 22 different amino acids) and glycogen, starch and cellulose where the polymers are identical sugar molecules.